Celtics

Irving, C's finish strong to top Warriors

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Irving, C's finish strong to top Warriors

BOSTON – This was the moment Boston Celtics fans had been waiting for. 

Tight ball game, a few ticks left on the clock against the best team in the land, and the game’s outcome in the hands of Kyrie Irving. 

He came to Boston to write a new narrative in what has been a phenomenal career already. 

CELTICS 92, WARRIORS 88

And did he ever deliver, scoring seven of Boston's last nine points as Boston pulled off their biggest win of the season, 92-88 over Golden State. 

Boston (14-2) extended their league-best winning streak to 14 in a row which will surely prompt some to see the Celtics as more than just a team off to a fast start but a team that could do the seemingly unthinkable at the start of the season - knock off the Warriors.

Kevin Durant had a chance to tie the game up but missed a baseline jumper that was rebounded by Al Horford. 

Horford, who had a double-double of 18 points and 11 rebounds, passed the ball up court to Jayson Tatum who was immediately fouled. 

He made both free throws with 6.7 seconds to play to secure the victory. 

Slowing down the high-powered Golden State offense (they came in averaging a league-best 119.6 points per game)  was among the many challenges the Celtics had to contend with Thursday night. 

Brad Stevens has seen Golden State bury teams in no time, and was determined to not see his crew suffer a similar fate, which is why he called a time-out early in the first after the Warriors took a 9-6 lead after Klay Thompson drained a wide open 3-pointer. 

Golden State soon began to put some separation between itself and the Celtics doing what they’ve done to most teams this season which is dominate play at both ends of the floor. 

Boston struggled to contain Golden State’s shooters while at the same time not capitalizing on the few opportunities to make the Warriors pay for the few mistakes they made defensively. 

It didn’t take long before this battle between the league’s best teams, started to show signs of a potential Golden State blowout with their lead peaking at 45-29 in the second quarter. 

But Boston responded with an 11-2 run sparked by strong play defensively and some timely shot-making by Jaylen Brown.

The Celtics continued to surge ahead and were well within striking distance as the half ended with Boston behind 47-42.

Brown finished with a team-high 22 points.

Boston appeared to have made it a one-possession game after an Irving driving lay-up was waived off due to basket interference.

Golden State once again pulled away early in the third quarter, seemingly on the verge of once again putting the Celtics in a major hole. 

And just like we saw in the first half, the Celtics scratched and clawed their way back into the game with Jaylen Brown leading the charge. 

Trailing 66-51, Boston closed out the third quarter with a 17-2 run with Brown scoring eight straight and a total of 10 points during the Celtics spurt.

After forcing a miss with 4.1 seconds to play, Stevens called a time-out in order to give his team a shot at going into the fourth with the lead. 

Terry Rozier got the in-bounds pass and dribbled up court before launching a deep 3-pointer that hit the side of the rim as time expired.

That was one of the few plays that didn't work for the Celtics down the stretch in a game that serves as the biggest win of the season and certainly one of the biggest for Stevens during his four-plus seasons here in Boston. 

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Celtics-Pistons a reminder of where both teams stand in the East

Celtics-Pistons a reminder of where both teams stand in the East

The idea every game for the Boston Celtics is to play a little better than they did the previous game. It’s the clearest signal for growth which more than anything else, is what the Celtics are striving to do consistently.

But as much as that might have been a focus against Detroit on Sunday, there was a bigger agenda item at work.

According to Kyrie Irving, Boston’s 91-81 win wasn’t about payback.

He’s right. 

But make no mistake about it; that was an agenda-driven victory that wasn’t so much about sending a statement but more of a reminder as to where Boston is right in the pantheon of the NBA and where the Pistons hope to be someday.

Celtics players saw their first meeting on Nov. 27 as one of 82 games. If they win it, great. If not, oh well. Let’s keep it moving. But the Pistons saw it as so much more than that. They treated as a much bigger deal than Boston did, and the result was Boston suffering its worst loss of the season.

Their game on Sunday was a referendum on Boston still being the team to beat in the East not named Cleveland, and Detroit is still among a jumbled pack of playoff contenders.

And so both move on, Boston (23-5) maintaining the best record in the East while the Pistons (14-12) have now dropped six straight with no clear signs of snapping out of their doldrums anytime soon.

That would be the big picture takeaway from Sunday’s game.

But it’s not the only one. 

Here are five other takeaways from Boston’s 91-81 win at Detroit on Sunday. 

 

There has been some noticeable and statistical slippage by the Boston Celtics recently on defense. On Sunday? Not so much. In fact, Boston wound up rendering a season-low 81 points. A big part of that was Boston’s unwillingness to give Detroit open looks. Of the 84 shots taken by the Pistons, 63 – that’s 75 percent – were contested. Throw in the fact that the Celtics have tremendous length when they do contest shots, it’s no surprise that the Pistons had major problems generating points.

 

AL HORFORD

He scored more points (18) than any other Celtic, but that just scratches the surface as to what he meant to Boston on this night. He was a rugged force around the rim, finishing one rebound shy of a double-double. And the offense went through him a lot, which explains the six assists. 

 

KYRIE IRVING’S KRYPTONITE

There is no player in this league that does a better job of defending Kyrie Irving, than ex-Celtic Avery Bradley. Now don’t get it twisted. Bradley doesn’t shut Irving down. What he does is, he makes Irving work harder than he does against any player, to score. So the 16 points on 6-for-16 shooting while not great by Irving standards, is pretty good considering who he was being defended by.

 

ANDRE DRUMMOND

The knock on him has been and continues to be, that he’s not as engaged as consistently as he needs to be to help his team. Give a lot of credit to Boston’s Aron Baynes for making Drummond for the most part, a non-factor. But some of the blame for Drummond’s dismal performance offensively (he was 1-for-5 and the one basket was a tip-in that upon further review looked as though it should not have been allowed), is on him. He was the biggest, strongest force on the floor on Sunday and had a very Drummond-like game in terms of rebounds (15). But this Pistons team needs him to be a steady presence scoring the ball as well. When he does that, Detroit can beat any team. But when he plays like he did on Sunday, the result more often than not will be what we saw – a Detroit loss. 

 

ARON BAYNES

He was justifiably praised for the job he did defensively on Andre Drummond. But as important as that was, often Baynes’ contributions offensively go unnoticed. For example, he had six points which equaled Drummond’s scoring. But what got overlooked was the job Baynes did in screening for assists. Boston had 16 assists for the game, with Baynes screening for eight of them. To put that in perspective, that was four times the total of the rest of the Celtics. And the nearest player to him in that category was Detroit’s Eric Moreland who screened for four assists. 

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WATCH: Boston Celtics vs. Chicago Bulls

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WATCH: Boston Celtics vs. Chicago Bulls

Tune into NBC Sports Boston to watch the Celtics play the Bulls in Chicago. You can also click here to watch the Celtics livestream presented by Nissan on the NBC Sports App. Coverage begins at 7:30 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live Presented by ACE Ticket.

- Game preview: Tatum getting lots of helping hands in his rookie season

- Channel Finder: Make sure you know where to watch

[SHOP: Gear up, Celtics fans!]

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